East of Jerusalem lies the historic Judean Desert and the hilltop fortress of Masada overlooking the Dead Sea. Masada was the setting of the mass suic
East of Jerusalem lies the historic Judean Desert and the hilltop fortress of Masada overlooking the Dead Sea. Masada was the setting of the mass suicide of almost 1,000 Jewish zealots, including men, women, and children, who preferred to die in honor than be conquered by the Romans in 73 AD during the Jewish revolt period. Recently, not far from Masada, two coins from 2,000 years ago were found in a wadi or dry canyon that have rewritten the history of the Jewish revolts against the Romans in the Akrabat region. One coin is from 67 AD and the other is from 70 years later, but they were both found in an area that historians had assumed was uninhabited after 73 AD. This means the Jewish revolts were more successful than previously imagined and that many survived in the Judean Desert for much longer than previously “assumed.”
The coin dating to the time of the Bar Kokhba Jewish revolt against the Romans that took place between 132-136 AD. It bears a palm branch surrounded by a wreath and the inscription LeHerut Yerushalayim (Freedom to Jerusalem) on one side and a musical instrument and the name “Shimon” on the other – the first name of the rebellion’s leader Bar Kokhba. (Tal Rogovsky / Bar-Ilan University )
Reports of Cave Looting Led to Bar Kokhba Jewish Revolt Coin
An archaeological survey, with very surface-level digging, was conducted in this part of the West Bank (the northern part of the Judean Desert ), by Bar-Ilan University, in collaboration with the Binyamin Regional Council.
“We conducted the survey about a year ago with a group of my students,” said Dr. Dvir Raviv from Bar-Ilan University, who led the initiative. “We had heard about antiquities looters active in the area, and especially in a cave near Wadi Rashash. I visited the cave and I saw pottery sherds and potential for interesting findings.”
During the survey, archaeologists found a ritual bath , among several other finds, and the unexpected Jewish revolt coin. The coin from Wadi Rashash is believed to have been minted in 134-135 AD. It bears a palm branch surrounded by a wreath and the inscription LeHerut Yerushalayim (Freedom to Jerusalem) on one side and a musical instrument and the name “Shimon” on the other – the first name of the leader of the Bar Kokhba rebellion, reports The Jerusalem Post .
This coin, also found in the Wadi Rashash area near Hirbet J’bait, was minted around 67 AD. It features a vine leaf and the Hebrew inscription Herut Zion (Freedom for Zion) on one side, and a goblet and the inscription “Year Two” on the other. (Tal Rogovsky / Bar-Ilan University )
Shimon the Messiah and the Jewish Revolts Against the Romans
Shimon was the first name of the leader of the Bar Kokhba revolt (the third and final Jewish revolt) against the Romans, Shimon Ben Kosevah, better known as Shimon Bar Kokhba. The great sage Rabbi Akiva regarded Shimon as the Jewish messiah and anointed him Bar Kokhba or “Son of the Star,” according to ecclesiastical sources, especially the Jewish Talmud.
The Jewish-Roman war began after Antipater the Idumaean began a cruel reign, a year after Romans took full control of the Syrian province in 63 AD. The revolt, bubbling and brewing for a long time, broke out over after several oppressive religious restrictions were imposed by the Romans, who also decided to build a Roman city over the ruins of Jewish Jerusalem, including a pagan sanctuary where the Temple had stood.
This helps further the theory and even testify to the existence of a Jewish community in the Judean desert region (Akrabat) until 134-135 CE, despite the prevailing belief that all Jewish communities to the north of Jerusalem were razed in the great revolt of the 7th decade AD and never resurrected, reports Israel Hayom .
It was in this area of Wadi Rashash where the later coin (from the Bar Kokhba Jewish revolt against the Romans; 132-136 AD) was discovered in a cave. (Tal Rogovsky / Bar-Ilan University )
Significance of the Finds and Ancient Jewish Resistance
“The coin from Wadi Rashash indicates the presence of a Jewish population in the area until the end of the Bar Kokhba revolt, in contrast to what was previously believed by researchers: that the Jewish settlements north of Jerusalem were all destroyed during the Great Revolt and the area not resettled afterward. This coin is in fact the first proof that the Akrabat region, the northernmost of the Judean districts during the Roman period, was controlled by Bar Kokhba’s administration,” Dr. Raviv said.
The other coin, found in Hirbet J’bait is considerably older – either 67 or 68 AD, reports the Daily Mail . It features a vine leaf on one side and the Hebrew freedom slogan Herut Zion or “Freedom to Zion” inscribed on the other.
Incidentally, the Romans destroyed the temple in Jerusalem just 3 years later, in 70 AD. Following this, the second revolt, also known as the Kitos War occurred in 115 AD, lasting two years until 117 AD.
These finds are important primarily because the top-heavy Roman narrative that has dominated this period is being questioned. More and more evidence of a stronger and longer Jewish resistance is emerging, and these two coins prove this. Further investigations may yield ancient texts written by the Jewish resistance of this era of Roman rule in Israel.
Top image: It was in a canyon like this one in the Judean Desert in the West Back of Israel that archaeologists found two ancient Jewish coins (one from 67 AD and one from circa 135 AD). That the coins were found in the same area rewrites existing assumptions about the Jewish revolts against the Romans in an area assumed to be uninhabited after the first Jewish revolt stage. Source: CPO / Adobe Stock
By Rudra Bhushan